some thoughts on happiness and technology today

Via securosis I read that really good article: “Happiness Takes (A Little) Magic”.
I won’t rehash his points, but I think there is still more to these stories than appears in that one. The biggest ones: to each their own happiness, and actively choose how your spend your time and work towards achieve feel happiness with it.

(Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with information security, or even technology…and reading this is likely a waste of time for everyone, including me.)

1. To each their own, you know? It’s one thing to say, “XYZ makes *me* happy,” but another problem entirely to write a piece about happiness in a way that smacks of trying to convince the world that your view of happiness is the universal or correct one. Or just the “correcter” one. This is a failing of religion and some people in general, where there is self-doubt until such a time as other people agree with you. And if the whole entire world agrees with you, then you can relax, because clearly you’re right. If that article got 5 pagehits and 0 comments, does that make it better or worse than the one that gets 1m hits and 500 comments in a week? Or I just need to let the tone of the piece go, and move on. 🙂

2. The junk food news/information is definitely a problem. It’s why I never spent much time on Fark. It’s why I’m loathe to “hang out” on IRC again. It’s why I never got into Digg or Reddit or other news sites where the news may be interesting, but just doesn’t matter to me or my life. It takes effort to stick to useful news rather than unuseful (useless!) stuff when you’re on the Internet. It takes time to cull the useless bits from a newsreader or learn to quickly scan usefulness in a Twitter feed. I’m finding value is consciously and unconsciously spending time on things that matter. And I already feel dirty browsing YouTube videos and realizing I just lost 3 hours for no real gain.

(Then again, there is a real world analog to this. If you spend 3 hours at a bar meeting 60 people, only maybe 5 are worth your time. Or maybe all the time spent driving to get to those beautiful outdoorsy places that make you feel spiritual. Or those dozen other places that you thought would be beautiful, but just gave you a rash. Or the tourist traps akin to 40m-hit YouTube videos. Great, you can say you’ve seen it, but was it *really* that good for you? Yes, to each their own…)

Honestly, I think this is an age issue for me. Even just a few years ago, I didn’t really give a shit what I spent my time doing. These days, I’m more conscious of my shortening time in this world. Hobbies are fine and distractions/entertainment are fine as well, but I’m trying hard to keep them somewhat bounded. My main weakness is really just video gaming…. As long as I’m truly enjoying the moments, I think that’s the most we can ask for.

2.5 I’m also finding a place for things that let me consume technology in a smarter or faster way. As a youngin, I used to tailor the shit out of my Windows UI with WindowBlinds or various other tweaks whose names escape me. But I quickly moved away from that because every new system or every rebuild would require all that time input again, and the time spent is just not worth it. Being able to quickly set up hotkeys to do mundane tasks that will get me done with computer work is a blessing, but eye candy is useless. I think this is one of the places the “cloud” wants to be, but is still trying to figure out how to do it and be profitable at the same time. It’s not there, but it’s a step… That may be a sub-resolution for this year or maybe the next: to more fully adopt hotkey tools and automate even more things that I do at work and play… (But not automate it in a way that saves some time, but just moves the time spent to maintaining that automation, like scripting/coding often get trapped into.)

Simplify, simplify.

3. There’s this space of people who make money and expect to make money doing very little, i.e. lounging around online, calling themselves social media experts, pursuing page hits, and writing about themselves like they’re more important than most others. I tend to feel like many of these people are one half-step away from a shattered self-image and deep depression and financial disaster. I don’t know the numbers, but it seems like so many of these people may have a few good things to say that are worth reading, but most of it is drivel and useless and a waste of my time. And certainly not worth providing some money to. Sure, play a violin beautifully in the tunnel and I’ll chip in a 20 spot. Give me good conversation in a bar and I may buy you a beer. Give me a good article, I’ll consume and move on. For so many, I think you’re better off getting a “real job” than trying to do the laziest thing you can. (Clearly, this does not apply to everyone as there are truly effective, hard-working, and highly profitable people whose sole product is online media or writing. I’m generalizing unfairly.)

4. I think there is merit in saying human beings need a little bit of adventure, but I also believe we need a little bit of ownership and production and creation of something. Basically, a tangible result of our efforts and sense of self-value. Sort of a microscopic mirror of the problem that the US is moving away from being a manufacturing country and more of an-I-don’t-know-what country. (Consuming and ueslessness? Thinking? Information?) Creating a blog and other online content and chatting and comments should help support real life interactions or at least fill voids temporarily as needed, but none of that is really tangible enough to provide long-term happiness for many people. “I blog for a living” still, to me, even as technologically in-tune as I may be, seems like an awful way to make a living. Sure, there are some who are very useful on a weekly basis and earn it as a real journalist, but for every 1, there is likely a thousand who need to stop lying to themselves and actually create or do something real, ya know? And in turn, stop contributing to the noise.

Then again, I may just have my panties in a bunch this week (HQ power outage all day due to carrier mistake will do that) and have some unfair opinions. But I think that’s increasinfly my right for advancing in age.

2 thoughts on “some thoughts on happiness and technology today

  1. The junk food news/information is definitely a problem. It’s why I never spent much time on Fark. It’s why I’m loathe to “hang out” on IRC again. It’s why I never got into Digg or Reddit or other news sites where the news may be interesting, but just doesn’t matter to me or my life.
    It’s not perfect (and both sites have a bias), but it’s a start. My laser printer gets a workout each morning via Readability printing tiny-font doublesided brainfood.

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